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00611 – FIREFLY

Movie Hype00611 – FIREFLY

The other day I was talking to a friend from the Old Country (America). She asked me, “If could only buy one DVD this year, what would it be?” Without hesitation, thought or preamble I answered, “FIREFLY.”

In 2002 FOX announced a new show FIREFLY. Helming the project was Joss Whedon, which excited fans to no end because Joss was the creator of BUFFY and ANGEL, which have given us the best combination of pathos, ethos and mythos in character and story of any show. Ever.

Then FOX in their oh-so-infinite wisdom put the program on Friday nights. Here you have a show with a built-in fan base—those who would follow Joss Whedon to Hell and back—and you put it on the one night when everyone under 30 is doing something!

But it gets worse. FOX decided not to show the Pilot first. The Pilot, which explained everything like why they’re all in that ship together and how they got there. No, FOX had a better plan. “Well show FIREFLY out of order!” Fans were confused, but loved it anyway. How could we not? The stories were compelling, the characters wonderful in their complexity and interaction; it was just cool as could be.

Of course FOX wasn’t happy with just showing the episodes in a crazy arc. Then they had to not air FIREFLY on many nights, and eventually the show was cancelled, before several of the episodes were even aired. People (including me) were crushed, but welcome to Corporate TV, where MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS JOE MILLIONAIRE GREEK BACHELOR SURVIVOR IDOL WEDDING is more preferable to well-made drama. That should have been the end of it.

Then the Sci-Fi Channel (and up here in Nanook-ville, the Space Channel) started to air the series. What they found was a rabid following. Soon FIREFLY was released on DVD, which garnered unheard of sales, enough so that Joss was commissioned to make a feature length movie, called SERENITY. (The film comes out Friday.)

Why should you care? Heed this paragraph like you would a fight between two girls (breathless and afraid to look away). FIREFLY is for you. I can prove it. My dad, who is notoriously difficult to convince he should be trying anything new, after months of asking, pleading, negotiating and desperation, started watching FIREFLY with me. And HE LOVES IT. You just can’t get any higher praise.

FIREFLY sort of defies genres, but the closest would be “Space-Western.” My dad actually compared it to the original STAR TREK series, which for him is the ultimate compliment. (His comparison was about the character interaction, which makes the series.) But if you’re not a science-fiction fan, don’t worry. If you harbor crazy prejudices—as I used to—about Buffy because you thought it was only about monsters, forget all that. I repeat: FIREFLY is for you.

Here’s the deal. In the future Earth doesn’t exist (still not sure why). There are many habitable planets, which were “Terra-formed” for human survival. The humans are often dropped on the planet with blankets, axes, and maybe a herd. Very much like settlers in the Old West. Some of them make it, some of them don’t. A great deal of the action takes place on these planets, which gives FIREFLY a very western primitive feel.”

There’s also a war. The government (the Alliance) against the separatists. Think the Civil War, not in terms of morality, but in terms of out-gunned firepower. Malcolm Reynolds is a Sergeant fighting for the Separatists. They lose. Badly. Six years later Malcolm is now Captain Reynolds, heading a crew on his ship Serenity. (A “Firefly-class” ship, so named, I think, because it resembles a bug when you look at it.) No longer an honorable soldier, Reynolds is now a glorified Fed-Ex man, taking jobs acquiring and delivering goods, sometimes of dubious legality. (Imagine if someone made a TV series of the Adventures of Han Solo the ten years before he met Luke and Co. That’s about how much fun FIREFLY is.)

Like my dad said, what absolutely makes FIREFLY is the characters. There’s Zoe, who used to be with Mal in the war. She still calls him Sir and follows his every lead, which annoys her husband Wash, who’s also the Pilot. Then there’s Jayne, a Mercenary just in it for the money. You’ll start off hating Jayne, but he might be the funniest characters. There’s also Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic. What I like about the crew is how they treat the Captain as if he’s still honorable, though he clearly feels he’s not.

Then there’s Inara. In the future a ship Captain isn’t a big thing, but a Registered Companion is. (Read: Courtesan.) What’s great is that clearly Mal likes Inara, but he’s so pissed about her lifestyle that he antagonizes her. The crew also picks up some strange passengers, including a preacher who knows quite a bit about the world, and two others who make life very interesting. (I’ll let you discover that for yourself.”)

I love all the little things. For example, apparently before the “Earth-that-was” ended China and the US came to dominate. Thus, everyone can speak both Mandarin and English. For the most part people speak English, but they tend to swear in Chinese. Brilliant. Another great aspect is how old-fashioned things seem. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was often like a Western. Even aboard their “spacecraft,” spare parts are often lying around and the technology seems to have basically gone backwards instead of forward.

There are very few times I absolutely stake my reputation as a Reviewer on a product. After all, people’s tastes are so different. Well, FIREFLY is one of those times. The DVD includes the 9 or 10 Episodes FOX aired, plus 4 others they never did. The episodes are on the DVD in the order you should watch them. With the full-length movie SERENITY coming out soon, what I want you to do is go Rent FIREFLY and watch the episodes. I guarantee you satisfaction. You can’t not love it. Then go see the movie.

FIREFLY is storytelling of the highest order. FIREFLY is characters you’ll instantly love, hate, and simply care about. You need to be watching FIREFLY, if only to prove to yourself there is something out there worth plugging into. Go watch it and then tell me how it was. And if you don’t watch it, there’s no power in the ‘verse that can help you.

Hyperion

‘Preciate

Major thanks to Marcellus for lending me the DVD

Thanks to Ajax for his help

Thanks to Grendel and Ziggy for coming over for a FIREFLY marathon

4 comments:

messier said...

OK, fine, but what about Dark Angel?
-Messier

Mokuyobi said...

OMFG go see Corpse Bride right now. i saw that movie twice in three days and the next time I go see it im so taking someone I can give a blowjob to in the theatre because THATS HOW FUCKING HOT IT MAKES ME.

(I so want to be that good looking when im dead and rotting and full of maggots)

Anonymous said...

It took Deep Space Nine four years and a schwack of writers who had just left Next Gen to get the series anywhere close to the level of writing talent and cast cooperation that Firefly has in its first episode. Whedon himself has said numerous times that Firefly is more like Anti-Trek, with few illusions about the grandeur of space travel and exploration, no aliens with bumpy foreheads, bad food (protein, all colors of the rainbow), ships that breakdown because of overuse and no available spare parts, men unshaven, sweat, and the need to find any sort of work to keep flying.

When the Independents fold and the Alliance establishes control of the galaxy (beautifully told in the opening moments of the pilot, NOT the first aired episode), Malcom Reynolds loses his faith in the fundamental justness of the universe. What we find operating on the fringes of space six years later is a quietly embittered, mostly hollow man going through the motions of staying alive without any particular purpose or direction. His last remaining moral anchors are the members of his crew, whom, despite some pretty visceral arguments and disagreements, he watches over and protects like a bear over her cubs. If Mal drank, he'd be Denzel's character from Man on Fire.

This puts Malcom Reynolds as far from John Luc Picard as its possible to get, really, flying a rickety transport ship with no phasers, quantum torpedoes, food replicators, transporters, cloaking devices, wandering from place to place looking for jobs to keep the ship fueled and in the air.

Rent the series. Then buy it. See the movie. If that isn't enough to get you to walk into a pro-Alliance bar on U-Day for a quiet drink, nothing will.

See you in the theatre, Browncoats.

Ajax said...

Above comment by Ajax

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